"Chris has asked, 'How's it going for you, Mom?' but he doesn't question me a lot about what I do," says Karen Cornell, the psychic mother of the former Soundgarden front man. Cornell has built a reputation as an "Intuitive Counselor" with the help of a popular weekly radio show on KUBE (and KSRX and KISW before that). She's never given Chris a reading, but confirms his choice of life path: "This baby was born screaming, and now he gets paid for it."
I'm visiting her office, Angelwood, for a consultation on the future of the music business—a challenging job even for a clairvoyant. The industry is rife with uncertainty, thanks to disappointing sales, company mergers, and subsequent personnel shuffling. The release date of Chris' new solo album shifted from April to June to September, and even the label name is up in the air—it will be released on some combination of A&M, Geffen, and Interscope.
Although my reading was supposed to focus on what's ahead for the local music scene, Cornell first asked me to choose 11 playing cards from an ordinary deck and spread them out. She immediately told me a blond woman would be contacting me in the next couple of weeks about work—"sometimes that means the next day," she added. Sure enough, two days later I received an e-mail requesting a meeting about a job. There would be a delay, Cornell had warned, and indeed, the position wasn't available for a month.
Spooky stuff, even for a believer. Cornell has also worked her magic at a Phoenix radio station run by KUBE's previous program director. Asked for suggestions to improve the station's chaotic environment, she proffered a couple of practical and perhaps supernatural suggestions—change the station's address by adding a suite "C" to it, and put everyone's names on their doors—and "Abracadabra," as Steve Miller might sing, the office became calm and organized.
For those not partial to the metaphysical, there is the inevitable list of logical reasons for such coincidences, and I ask if her kids are less open. Karen has six children, and all share her large, soulful brown eyes, if not her uncanny ability to foresee the future. One of her other children, Peter, of the band Grace (and previously Inflatable Soul) has told folks, "You need to see my mother." But all three of her daughters use her services and refer friends.
"Males have been taught to be suspicious of anything not provable. It's dismissed. The left brain is strictly the ego and analytical side that we've revered over the last 500 years," Cornell explains. "Most psychics are creative and open to the intuitive. But it's best to be balanced—to combine both."
In addition to reading cards for current details, she uses a Pythagorean method of numerology to view the big picture. A person's destiny—or purpose on the planet—is determined by birth name, and his or her life path can be obtained through birth date, revealing his or her driving forces, pinnacles, and challenges. It's a mathematical science, the telepath explains. The energy resonating from the sound of each number holds a highly influential meaning. The same is true for letters, which have a corresponding number from 1 to 9 (A is 1, B is 2, etc.).
It's tricky to get a clear picture of such an amorphous thing as Seattle music, especially without a birth date. Cornell confessed she didn't realize grunge would be so big until she saw Chris' photo on the front page of the paper. "I've maintained just a marginal interest since Soundgarden aren't together anymore." She pulls out a "Personal Numbers" chart and begins furious calculations, writing out letters, color coding, adding up corresponding numbers and circling the sums.
"Seattle is a 1. That's a very individualistic and independent energy. Anyone doing business here has to function independently." She attributes the prior music boom to this energy. "If an artist is concerned about whether something sells, the sound will change," Cornell predicts with impeccable logic. Actually, the numbers for the letters in Seattle add up to 19, which is then added together (1 plus 9), for a sum of 10, and that too is added together to achieve the final number, 1. "A 19 is the most individualistic, she proclaims.
"The biggest local act still together is Pearl Jam, a 4—hard work." Cornell busily works out singer Eddie Vedder's birthday, December 23, 1966, coming up with an 8. "That's about money and career. But he's in a 9 year now and that's about endings and completions. If he were to ever leave the band it would be this year. He's ready to start a new cycle. Money ceases to be the focal point—he's made lots. Nine is humanitarian, influencing even more people. It may change how he makes music," she notes after studying the numbers further. "This is a big change for Eddie."
Speaking of 9's—although Ma Cornell is protective of her brood, she reveals that Chris was in a 9 year in 1998, insinuating that it was providential his solo debut wasn't made last year when the original producer, Daniel Lanois, was too busy. "It would have been bad timing. This is a 1 year for him—new beginnings and doors opening," she says.
Perhaps his new label, MCA—which is an 8 (money), and which distributes Interscope, a 7 (spiritual)—is also more auspicious. She hasn't heard any of Chris' new record, yet says his sound has changed. "Listening to 'Sunshower' [from the Great Expectations soundtrack]—that was different."
The advance word about the singer's solo record is that it's about the voice and the songs. Incidentally, the disc's producers, Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider, are from the band Eleven, a master number that adds up to 2. Next year is a 2. "Two is a feminine, gentle number. Balance, cooperation, compassion, compromise, community, harmony," Cornell relays. "I can't help but feel everybody is going to change their sound to a certain extent—[become] less angry. This has been the last gasp."
Cornell foretells an artistic shift in the new millennium. "We're going to experience a more peaceful energy as we progress into the 2000s," she predicts. "The thousand years of peace in the age of Aquarius."
"The 2000s can't come fast enough," Cornell adds with a sigh. "It's a nutty time now, but it will calm down. There will be more melody. Once we change over, things will get better . . . I hope."